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English schools are found to be among the best in the world

news | Published in TES magazine on 11 December, 2012

England is rising up the rankings in reading, with the nation’s best readers as good as the very best in other parts of the world, according to the first details from two highly important international research studies.

But England has slipped in science results and there appears to have been a plateauing in pupils performance in maths.

The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timms) and Progress in International Reading Literacy (Pirls) reports compare standards in the three subjects around the world.

They are important because education secretary Michael Gove has placed a lot of weight on international comparison research studies when justifying his programme of reforms to English schools such as academies.

The findings are based on tests taken by hundreds of thousands of pupils in different nations and jurisdictions – such as cities – in May and June 2011.

Pirls shows England is now joint 10th out of 45 countries in reading at 11, compared to 19th in the 2006 edition of the survey. However this country does have a slightly longer tail of underperformance than many other high-performing countries.

The Timms study, meanwhile, suggests that among 10-year-olds England has fallen to 15th out of 50 in science, compared with seventh out of 36 four years ago - the last time the study was conducted.

England’s score for science at age 10 was 529, compared with 542 in 2007. This is still above the Timms average of 500, and puts England behind nations such as Korea.

At age 14 in science, England has dropped to ninth place out of 42 areas, compared with fifth out of 45, four years ago.

In maths, England’s 10-year-olds came ninth out of 50 nations and jurisdictions, compared with seventh out of 36 in 2007, while among 14-year-olds England was placed 10th out of 42, compared with seventh out of 45 in 2007. The study suggests that England still has above average scores in maths – at 542 for 10-year-olds and 507 for 14-year-olds – and these are similar to four years ago, but other countries’ scores are improving.

Education minister Elizabeth Truss said: “We must produce a workforce that is literate, and strong in maths and science, able to be successful in a highly competitive global jobs market, and attract the high-quality jobs that will secure the future of our economy.

“That is exactly what our reforms are designed to achieve.”


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Comment (5)

  • "Education minister Elizabeth Truss said: “We must produce a workforce that is literate, and strong in maths and science, able to be successful in a highly competitive global jobs market, and attract the high-quality jobs that will secure the future of our economy."

    She could have added, "therefore Mr Gove and I are going to make sure that primary school children all learn poems off by heart. This will then take us into the lead over these South East Asian economies. In secondary schools we are going to make the exams into a single tier so that at least half the children will be able to answer the questions. The other half have to learn the concept of failure if we are to succeed in this competitive world. It is essential to make use of all the talents of our people."

    When asked if she believed that teachers should be congratulated on the improvements achieved since the last test, she probably said "our reforms over the last 2 years have delivered these improvements, and the results prove that we are on the right track."

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    16:04
    11 December, 2012

    BigBill

  • Timms and Pirls.

    Who organises it?
    Who carries it out?
    Who makes sure it is fair and comparable; in so much as the latter can be defined for the comparison of reading skills in English, Cerman, Spanish and Cantonese to name but 4 ?

    "Just wondering."

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    20:51
    11 December, 2012

    BigFrankEM

  • The danger is wanting to take simplistic headlines from these complex international datasets. They are interesting and offer some useful guidance but as the Office for National Statistics and Andreas Schleicher have both pointed our recently you cannot made crude comparisons between countries, years or your own place in the tables ... oh wait a minute that's just what politicians like to do.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    22:38
    17 December, 2012

    paulhopkins

  • How does learning a poem off by heart make someone a better reader?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    22:45
    20 December, 2012

    stevie d

  • Will the last teacher to leave teaching please turn the lights out...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8:08
    21 December, 2012

    MrMedia

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